Tag Archive: Tobermory


Murray McDavid: Safe Haven 2014 – Mystery Malt (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 6 Years: 50% ABV)

Visual: Pale darkened gold spirit. Generally slow puckering comes from the spirit with some slow, thick streaks coming out as well.

Nose: Beefy peat. Alcohol tingle. Wet moss. Thick. Christmas pudding and sherry cream. Salt. Heavy. Dry smoke. Brandy cream. Dried beef slices. Water adds grass, and sulphur. More water brings out raisins.

Body: Warming and thick. Treacle. Brown bread. Peppery. Beef slices. Peat. Malt chocolate. Christmas pudding. Vanilla toffee. Charring. Water adds cherries. Sulphur. Raisins. Fudge. Smoother peat. More water adds alcohol soaked raspberries. Strawberry. Brandy cream.

Finish: Malt chocolate and brown bread. Thai seven spice. Warming. Smoke. Christmas pudding. Sherry soaked raisins. Water adds fudge and glacier cherries. Peppercorns. More water adds brandy cream.

Conclusion: Ok, short version. This is Christmas Pudding, covered in brandy and sherry cream, peat smoked and pushed out with a good hit of alcohol character. That last bit is not a surprise considering that this is a tidy 50% abv.

Neat this thing is intense, not overly harsh, but visibly wearing its alcohol weight. The youth of the spirit means that the peat is still fresh and full of force and can easily be seen past the strong flavours. It has a mossy, Island character and a touch of salt that similarly calls to the sea, but front and centre is the Christmas pudding style and associated spirity creams. (The brandy cream starts out lighter but becomes very noticeable with water) It is heavy, slightly spicy, and lovely.

Water smooths the alcohol, but never the weight of the peat, or the Christmas pudding character for that matter. The sweetness alters from darker malt chocolate to lighter vanilla fudge, adding in cherries and other brighter fruit notes to work with. These are lovely rounding notes that come out from using water, but that heavy weight is still front and centre to the whisky.

More water makes this a bit sulphurous but also balances that with some more dark fruit, showing that, at 50% abv, this has a lot of room for exploration. This is such a booming whisky, using the unusual cask finish well to to either cover up, or work with the issues you can get with younger spirit, while also taking advantage of said youth to utterly work the peat character to its potential.

This is a lovely, heavy, peaty, spirity, Christmas Pudding dessert of a whisky. I love this one.

Background: When this first turned up in Independent Spirit, it vanished quickly. When it turned up again I decided to grab a bottle as it sounds very nice. I don’t think I’ve tried any Murray McDavid bottlings before, but they seem to be doing some very interesting and different things recently. So worth keeping an eye on. This lists itself as from a “Trade Secret” region. So I am guessing they do not have the rights to label the distillery. However since, most places list this as “Isle Of Mull” whisky it is not hard to guess that it is Tobermory, to be specific the peated Ledaig expression. I’m not sure why they didn’t just list region as “Island” as that would have been vague enough but give an idea of where it was from. At only six years this should be interesting peat wise, and peat can fade quickly as a whisky ages, so this should be pretty big. Also it spent it’s last six month in a Ximenez – Spinola PX casks, which is its big selling point, the rest of time was in a bourbon hogshead. Music wise I had recently seen that youtube musician Jonathan Young had put out a very 80s feeling album called “ Starship Velociraptor” under the band name Galactkraken, it is a wealth of fun so I put that on in the background.

Caermory 21 Year

Caermory: 21 Year (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 21 Year: 48.2% ABV)

Visual: Pale custard touched gold.

Viscosity: Very slow thin puckering.

Nose: Strong alcohol but soft vanilla and lime notes. Heather. Light whiff of peat smoke. Water adds oak, sulphur and brackish greenery,

Body: Very smooth. Orange crème. Vanilla custard. Alcohol builds up quickly. Fudge. Water makes even smoother and removes alcohol fire. Lime. Golden syrup. Tropical fruit hints. Slight beefy middle. Mild spinach greenery. Apples. Chocolate limes sweets.

Finish: Fudge. Slight spinach. Vanilla. Light lime. Oak. Alcohol air. Water brings out malt chocolate, more sweet lime. Beef and onion crisps. Apples.

Conclusion: This manages to both pack a punch, and be smooth as heck. Good combo. The big punch is easy to see – big abv, big flavours. It pushes a lot of straight forward fudge and vanilla custard sweet notes to sugar shock sweet levels. The smoothness is less expected – even at cask strength it hits smooth – though the alcohol fire does build up if held. Overall, good first impressions.

Tobermory is an interesting distillery with both the Ledaig heavily peated expression, and the smoother, fruitier unpeated expression. This definitely sits towards the unpeated expression, but does not entirely escape the island character. I am not sure if the malt is peated at all, but there does seem to be a light whiff of peat smoke and a beefy middle – more than that is a greenery element subtly hidden within it. It feels halfway between spinach and seaweed, but since it is is so light it is not off-putting. All light elements but give a nice island backing to what would otherwise be a fairly standard sweet whisky.

Apart from that? Well there is the more traditional Tobermory green fruit – here showing as apple and lime notes over the big sweetness. At the cask strength they are not really noticeable, but are soon evident with water.

Overall, it blends the three sets of notes (Island, sweetness and fruity) to an impressive balance and with water it is pretty easy to drink. While the years have not brought exception complexity to this, they have brought clarity of character and a very luxurious feeling. So, yeah, good times here.

Background: Yeah, this is a Tobermory independent bottling bottling, guess they were not allowed to use the distillery name. This bottle, with about a double measure of whisky left in it, was given to me by the kind fellows at Independent Spirit for me to do tasting notes on. Many thanks :-). As always I will still attempt to be unbiased in my notes. Drunk while listening to David Bowie: Black Star again. I am seriously never getting bored of the album. So damn haunting and beautiful.

Connoisseurs Choice Ledaig 1998

Connoisseurs Choice: Ledaig 1998 (Scotland Island Single Malt Whisky: 16 Years: 46% ABV)

Visual: Light grain gold.

Viscosity: Very slow moderate sized streaks.

Nose: Peat smoke and beef broth. Radishes. Smoked fish skin. Light salt and medicinal. Cinder toffee. Water makes more grassy.

Body: Peach and peat. Light alcohol burn. Lime notes. Melted chocolate. Smooth texture. Dried apricot. Vanilla custard notes. Water makes grassier, with more peat. Sea weed.

Finish: Oily fish skins. Dry beef. Peat and smoke. Light alcohol tingle. Water adds salt and rocks.

Conclusion: Ledaig – always good to return to this, one of those in the unusual set of a smooth ,fruity, peated whisky. Peach and peat is not exactly a tasting note I expected to ever need, but there it is, clear as day.

It doesn’t open up that way, the aroma is all peat smoke and beef broth – but as soon as you get to the main body those fruity Tobermory notes are there – evident as can be. They work easily with rather than against the peat, creating the impression of a wonderfully fruity sauce layered over thin cut smoked beer. Very nice.

I always find it odd to have a whisky where the water actually makes the whisky harsher – however it does that here. Though it doesn’t make it harsher in the alcohol rising, but in that the flavours tend to wards the harsher end of the spectrum. It becomes more grassy, and the peat becomes much more evident. The grassy character that comes out makes me think of some of the Springbank expressions that exist – Overall I’d say take it easy with the water – it works much better as a peat touched fruity whisk than as a sub optimal more heavily peat touched whisky with water.

Taken as that it is a lovely whisky, smooth, balanced – forceful and fruity. This continues to expand my respect for both Ledaig and Gordon and Macphail.

Background: Another chance to grab miniatures to try a wider range of whiskies. This one from Gordon and Macphails excellent Connoisseurs Choice range. Ledaig is the peated version of Tobermory. This was bottled in 2014. Ok, I think that about covers it.

Adelphi Tobermory

Adelphi: Selection: Tobermory 18 Year (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 18 Year: 58.8% ABV)

Visual: Very dark copper bronze.

Viscosity: Quite thick fast steaks mixed with some thin puckering.

Nose: Stewed dates. Figs. Peaches. Thick. Almonds. Noticeable alcohol. Crème brulee. Treacle. Opens up to fresher fruit with water, stewed apples comes out.

Body: Thick and tarry feel, Caramel. Honey. Alcohol burn only comes out if held for a while. Very smooth initially. Softens to toffee and smoke. Mandarin orange. Water mainly makes smoother for longer. Gives more custard, almonds and syrup.

Finish: Almond slice. Caramel and smoke. Malt chocolate and chocolate orange. Burned oak. Water makes bigger and sweeter.

Conclusion: Holy shit this was the house whisky! This bloody lovely. Despite the high strength it takes a long while held on the tongue before it starts the alcohol burn and the feel is viscous as hell. This really uses the years of age to make it feel luxurious and all this praise is even before we get to the flavour.

It is mainly rich caramel over light charred wood and smoke, the flavour as thick as the texture. This sweetness develops allowing a fruitiness previously promised by the aroma to develop with mandarin orange amongst chocolate. However despite this development you never get the full promise of the aroma. That thing was all stewed fruits and dark flavours, it spilled from the glass and dragged you back to it to take the first sip. If the body had held to the promise of the nose it would be an all time favourite, as is it is still lovely.

The balance of full thick toffee sweetness over smoke is potent and fulfilling, and despite its smoothness neat, it manages to smooth more with water and give a larger range of sweetness. You don’t get that much change of flavour with water, which is a pity considering the strength, but it does sooth and open it. It is always the same whisky, but you get to pick the intensity.

A great pick for a house whisky that shows the fantastic quality of the Tasting Rooms, and also a fine whisky by any measure.

Background: This is one of the Tasting Room’s house whiskies. Seriously. An 18 year Island whisky. Since my experience of Aelphi at whisky shows so far has been very high quality I had to give it a try. This was drunk while waiting for the rest of my friends to turn up (they were late in the end, but it gave me more time to review). This was in the wood between 1994 and 2012.

Tobermory: 10 Year (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 10 Years: 46.3% ABV)

Visual: Light grain colour.

Viscosity: Very slow streaks. Moderately thick

Nose: Squeezed lime. Vanilla. Grain fields. Oak. Sulphur. Water makes less distinct.

Body:  Quite fiery alcohol. Lime cheesecake. Milk chocolate and kiwi fruit. Sweet strawberry undertone. Water makes toffee chocolate and sweet lime yet still fiery. Some golden syrup comes out.

Finish: Kiwi fruit and milk chocolate. Dry. Strawberry. Slightly dusty. Water adds toffee and more chocolate. Pears. More water makes praline like.

Conclusion: I ran into the peated Ledaig version of this a while back but I realised I had never really played with the unpeated Tobermory expression. So when I saw it in a tidy little 5cl bottle I thought I might as well rectify that.

The unusually high abv for a base expression seems like an odd pick for the style of whisky.  The whisky is light and citrus fruit filled which doesn’t seem like it needs the extra grip the abv brings.  Oddly the aroma breaks up a bit with water as well, and water is recommended to break up the fire a little.  After a bit of play adding water I started finding the chocolate toffee coming out in the body which helps play against the fruitiness. This is where it gets most interesting, though by this point the water has pretty much nullified all but the egg sulphur like elements of the aroma which matches the flavour badly.

It’s nice like that but still fiery, which definitely doesn’t match the style.   In fact the alcohol burn can survive a surprising amount of water being added.  This is probably the whiskys main weakness.  Thankfully a bit more water will eventually balance the fire out and adds a nice praline touch.  However by this point the delicious toffee elements seem to have been submerged by the water.

Overall a range of nice elements that you can’t seem to get all at one time. The aroma breaks before you get the toffee and the toffee breaks before the fire does.  It gives it a nice bit of exploration but it does mean that you never reach that balanced level where everything works at one.  A nice whisky to play about with but not a favourite.

Background: Tobermory is a distillery I know better for their more peated expressions bottled under the “Ledaig” line.  This miniature was picked up to give the lighter less peated base expression a try.

Signatory Vintage: Ledaig 1993 (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 18 Years: 43% ABV)

Visual: Very pale. Just the lightest colouring of a brackish offset from clear spirit.

Viscosity: Multiple fast streaks form from the spirit quite quickly.

Nose: Light beef and oxo cubes. Peat and a touch of smoke. Vanilla custard backing it up Bandage dressings.  Becomes light and a touch more medicinal with water. More beef crisp like as well.

Body: Thick textured. Meat with a touch of barbecued sausage skin. Sweet custard. Water makes more custard creams and beef crisps with a touch of light egg white.

Finish: Slightly dusty. Shortbread and ash. Barbecue sauce. Beef like if water is added and a touch of light milk chocolate.

Conclusion: Over the years I have come to associate a slight tending towards harshness with Signatory Vintage whiskies. Not in a bad way, but most I’ve encountered have had a bit more pep than usual to them.  This then blew that conception away. It’s a whisky that brings the meat and peat you would expect, but brings it in silky smooth.

It’s sweet behind the massive long lasting beer flavour The finish in particular lasts forever with beer and sometimes a touch of chocolate.  This doesn’t make it a world shaker of whisky but it is solid and smooth. It’s a good one to check how you get along with peated whiskies before jumping in with both feet to the more heavy going distilleries.

A solid expression, sort of an established baseline of how a peated whisky should be, but without and extraneous features.

Background: Drunk at the tasting rooms, this independent bottling of the more peated of the Tobermory distilleries output that goes under the Ledaig label was aged in a hogshead cask between 1993 and 2011.  I’ve sampled Ledaig a few times, but this is the first time I have got around to tasting noting it.

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